According to the report authored by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh: “Google, Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo! Search and other search engine companies are rightly seen as media enterprises, much as the New York Times Company or CNN are media enterprises” and deserve the same protections. It adds that search engines have the same freedom to choose a set of links as do news aggregators like the Drudge Report or the Huffington Post.
Search engine results are a form of opinion, says the report, in which companies offer information they think is most relevant to users.
In practice, this would mean Google has the right to punt sites like Yelp, which has complained that Google is a monopolist, to the search equivalent of Siberia if it decided that was best for users (Yelp now comes up second in a search for “restaurant review”).
The US has a long history of companies claiming First Amendment protections. One example is a newspaper that was allowed to exclude certain advertisers even though it had a “substantial monopoly.”
If search engines such as Google begin choosing what links are presented, as do news aggregators like the Drudge Report, then they are no better than the old Yahoo! sites.